Why Parallel Billing Testing is Critical for Utilities and How Automation Can Help

It’s hard to overstate the importance of accurate and timely billing for utilities. Because of the complexity of these systems, utility companies invest in high-quality billing solutions. And when any organization is moving from a legacy billing system to a new system, upgrading, or even implementing rate changes, transferring that old data can become a very complex process. This is where parallel testing comes into play.

In this article, we’ll explain what parallel billing testing is, the benefits of automating parallel billing testing, and offer insights into choosing the right partner to help you with your testing.

What is Parallel Billing Testing?

When implementing parallel billing testing, two or more systems run side by side—parallel, if you will—to verify the quality of the data being migrated from the existing system to the target system. Running parallel systems is critical for ensuring that the utility is using correct data for billing.

While parallel billing testing is straightforward and plays a crucial role in billing accuracy, not every utility does it. Skipping this test puts a utility at risk of negative consequences, such as double billing or charging customers incorrect amounts.

If one test can eliminate so much potential risk, why aren’t more utilities doing it? The simple answer is that it’s a painful process—when it’s done manually. For the average utility, it could take five people, dedicated solely to the project, up to three weeks to manually spot check. This means utilities need additional staff to serve as backups. And even with a team performing parallel billing testing, there’s still the risk of human error.

But what if we told you there’s a way to take the pain out of this painstaking, manual process? A solution that frees up your employees so they can focus on more inspiring and important matters. A way to eliminate human error. There is. It’s automating parallel billing testing.

The 5 Benefits of Automating Parallel Billing Testing

1. Ensures a smooth transition. Whether you’re performing an upgrade, moving to a new system, or adjusting rates, you want to ensure that your customers experience a painless transition. There’s no better way to help guarantee that than through automation. Once set up, automated parallel billing is fast, easy, and accurate.

2. Eliminates errors. Utilities are naturally risk-averse and nothing eliminates risks as well as automation can. When done correctly, the automated parallel billing testing process runs for an entire month and includes every account and account type, as well as every active rate.  This thorough testing is critical for ensuring that flat charges, like streetlight charges or taxes, aren’t overlooked — and it provides peace of mind that 100% of errors will be caught.

3. Frees up workers. Monotonous, mind-numbing tasks aren’t the best use of employee time. With automated parallel billing testing, your management team and subject matter experts no longer need to spend weeks looking at printouts and reconciling endless line items. Instead, they can spend a few days looking at reports and reconciliation reasons and verify results as needed. By having these leaders less in the weeds of the process, they can focus on other areas of testing that need to be done in a manual mode, such as testing integration; or they can focus on business processes, like start/stop fieldwork or ensuring that customer contact information is correct.

4. Reduces costs. In addition to eliminating the need for employee backups, automated parallel billing is time- and cost-efficient. An important part of this benefit is ensuring that everything is done correctly the first time, which saves employees from rework. Saving time saves money. The ability to run multiple tests simultaneously means less time spent combing for errors and more time spent focusing on innovation and opportunities that are going to drive your business forward.

5. Improves worker satisfaction. There’s no other way to say it: manual parallel billing testing is boring. The mountain of monotonous work is not only uninspiring, but it also makes it easy for staff to let an error slip through. Automating the testing, on the other hand, reduces errors and increases employee satisfaction because they get to focus on more interesting, engaging work. 

Finding an Automated Parallel Billing Testing Partner

Your Testing Partner should provide a tool to automate the process efficiently and effectively. USP has developed a proven tool combined with a process to accurately capture any discrepancies and provide detailed output for reconciliation purposes.

At a minimum, any automated testing tool should do and produce the following:

  • Accelerate the testing effort and accuracy of customer bill comparisons through automation by removing the manual testing process.
  • Compare 100% of all customer bills between the current system and future system within each billing cycle over a given month.
  • Produce output showing any discrepancies.
  • Allow for the reconciliation of all expected and/or legitimate differences.
  • Provide a high level of confidence that the future system has been configured properly for billing purposes during User Acceptance Testing.

By reducing costs, slashing risk, and upgrading employee satisfaction, there’s no question that automating parallel billing testing is a smart business decision. Unfortunately, not many firms are able to offer complete automated parallel billing testing. When you’re searching for a solutions partner, make sure their offering is comprehensive and incorporates all the billing data for an entire month. This allows for the evaluation of every active customer type/rate combination. It also helps ensure that you have a complete picture and reap the full benefits of automation.

USP Installs Confidence, Not just Software

Utility Solutions Partners (USP) is a premier technology consultancy and systems integrator for mid-size utility companies that use, or are moving to, Oracle Utilities products. Our experts compare all data and offer comprehensive testing to provide a complete assessment.

When you’re ready to reduce your risk by bringing automation to your utility, contact us. We can empower you to create your own custom approach that will maximize the return on your investment in technology and systems.